The Sunday Night Report

Well…this was supposed to be a light, fun post with a few fun photos depicting routine life at the Long’s this week.  And then I accidentally closed the van door on Nicole’s hand…and this wonderful Sunday ended up in another trip to the Emergency Room…so there’s the bad news.  The good news is that the x-ray shows her hand is bruised but nothing is broken and it should be fine in a couple of days.

Everyone has been doing well…I’ve been amazed that no one has gotten sick, arriving home in the summertime has its advantages.

Here’s the “Life at the Long’s” post I meant for this to be:

Our recent days have been focused on finishing a remodeling job at home on the kids rooms and the boys bath…

~ Dad and Vanya working on the Guys Bath ~

There is lots of computer work going on with all 4 of them doing Rosetta Stone English and one also doing an English typing program.

We end most every day with an hour or more bike ride through our little city with a stop at the park for play…

~ Volleyball Game ~

~ Old Fashioned Fun on the Kids Playground ~

…and a great swingset we all enjoy!  While our hearts are in the country and we would love it if the Lord allows us to return to living on a farm someday, we truly are blessed to live in this wonderful little city within the city of Louisville.  A great place to ride bikes, play and keep life really simple while we all transition into a new normal.

We enjoyed our Bible study class and worship today and our friends had the kids back out for the afternoon.  Their girls wanted to learn to make bleenie (and we’ve got the bleenie making pro here!) so they did that while the guys enjoyed the outdoors with golf, water guns, a zip line and of course, a good round of soccer.  We met back up at a city park in Middletown that had a live concert, hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and all the trimmings for dinner.  The kids had a great time playing together in the park and we all enjoy the time visiting and sharing encouragement.  We cannot tell you the blessing this family is to us…God has put them in our lives for this time and we are beyond thankful.

Here’s a photo from our time at the park…Pavlina enjoying a good tree climb with a new friend, a girl adopted as an infant by another family in our church…everywhere we turn there is another adoptive family, what a blessing!!

~ Mya and Pavlina ~

Here are a few prayer requests when we come to mind…first is food.   They all ate great when they first joined us in Ukraine but not so much anymore.  They have done some cooking this week and really enjoyed it but we need to work on making a meal plan for the week that is balanced and healthy.  Man cannot live on bleenie alone!!  🙂

Healing for Nicole’s hand to come quickly so she can be back on her bike and playing volleyball soon.

God’s strength for Mom and Dad…here goes totally honest…this is exhausting.  And has been since August 24, 2009 when God called us to adoption and we began this process.  These five most recent months have been incredibly intense and draining  in so many ways; physically, emotionally, financially, but most of all spiritually intense beyond anything we’ve ever experienced.  Satan roams as a prowling lion seeking to kill and destroy and unfortunately we did not leave him in Ukraine.  He presses on all the more intently now that we are home and more able to show our love and commitment to the children as they grow to trust us and know we care deeply for them.  We cherish your prayers…the transition continues…our faith that God will provide each need is continually tested and strengthened…and the precious times bonding with our kids are added daily.  We are tired…but oh, so blessed!!  Thank you to each one who prays, who has come alongside, who cares and loves us, we love you all!!

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Kittens!!

~ Our two tender, gentle guys ~

~ Happy Pavlina, Content Kitten 🙂 ~

~ So Sweet ~

If a photo is worth a thousand words, these should say it all.  🙂

It was a sweet day with the new kittens.  The vet told us to give them a bath in Dawn dish soapy water to kill any fleas, let them dry for 24-48 hours and then treat them with the medication for fleas and ticks.  So, the little guys got a surprise welcome to the family this morning with a good dunking in warm water.  Hopefully the tender loving dry off and cuddling made it worth it.  The kids are loving them and thinking of names for them.

It was a great day at home…loving on kittens, playing with a guitar our friends loaned us, working on our vehicles, doing tons of laundry, mowing our yard, everyone doing Rosetta Stone English and making more bleenie for dinner.  We are all doing well and each one is finding their favorite things to do at home.  God is so good and we are so blessed!!

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Cooking and Kittens

Presto!!  Eureka!!  We think we’ve found it!!  Thank you Jesus!!  Our oldest girl loves to cook and is really good at it.  It seems to be the magic ticket to happiness…oh, happy day!!  And lets Mom off the hook too…life is grand!!

Yesterday they asked if they could cook bleenie for lunch.  That is Ukrainian for crepes.  The three older ones loved this and they laughed and worked forever, it was fabulous.  And so was lunch!!

They had asked last week if they could cook borsch, a Ukrainian soup.  So, tonight was borsch and verinicky night.  They worked 3.5 hours chopping, sauteing, boiling, deboning, mixing, and rolling out dough, it was a major production.  And it was great!  Nicole is head chef and she leads the team.  The youngest one floats in and out but the older three are in for the long haul.   They work and laugh and it is great.   Here you go…enjoy!

~ Nicole at work and Dad in search of the needed supplies ~

~ Whole Crew at Work ~

Kittens…both of the boys LOVE animals.  Prolisky (their orphanage) had a great cat we’d love to have adopted along with the kids.  Our cat disappeared in late December and our 16 year old border collie, Princess, died April 6, our first week in Makeevka.  We came home for the first time in 24 years animal-less.  We’d been talking of getting kittens for weeks.  Monday night one of the boys asked if we were going to buy a cat.  We knew it was time.  God knew too because last night a family posted on our homeschool loop that they had two neutered 10 week old male kittens for free.  Perfect!!  We contacted them and had fun visiting with them today, jumping on the trampoline, petting the chickens and seeing their boys’ menagerie of turtles, frogs and more.  Sadly, I didn’t get photos of them with the kittens so we’ll get those tomorrow!!  They are adorable, of course, and there is no greater therapy than cat petting.  🙂

This week started rough but in God’s grace He brought cooking and kittens to us and four very happy soon-to-be-sleeping kids as I type.  Thank you Jesus!!  And, keep it coming…we have no idea how to do this and trust your leading each step of the way.

 

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Coming Alongside

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In this post we talked about the strong support system we had in Ukraine and how we prayed for God to bring others alongside us at home to fill that deep need as we left Kyiv.  He has more than answered that prayer.  We arrived home to a refrigerator full of food, meals from neighbors and friends for days, gifts of clothing  and so many precious friends continuing to pray for and encourage us.

Our friends, the Meiners, have stepped up to the plate.  They are coming alongside us each step of this journey and it is beyond incredible.  They adopted 4 children, 2 each trip, 10 years ago and they are now teens similar in age to our four.  We are joining them for worship each Sunday.  They had us out for dinner and a special event last weekend and then yesterday invited our children home for the afternoon to play and work.  We had previously planned to meet at the park in our small city for a picnic and fireworks last night so it worked perfectly to meet back up there after the two of us enjoyed lunch at Cracker Barrel and a nap in the afternoon.  It was a priceless gift and time of getting outside the box, regaining our perspective and being ready for the new week.

Church is still a struggle for two of our children.  It seems to be the thing that hits them hardest.  This is spiritual warfare that was intense in Ukraine and we knew it would intensify when we arrived home and they began this new life and opportunity to know the love of Jesus and family. They have been heavily indoctrinated with the teachings of the Russian Orthodox church and the differences in the styles of worship and teachings are tough for them.  We are so thankful for our Christian friends who are coming alongside us and sharing the passion for willing their hearts to Jesus.  We cannot do it alone.  We will plant the seeds but it will take many to water and God to give the increase.  We will be patient, give it time, never give up and watch God work in their hearts.  We are looking forward to the beginning of a small group Bible study for teens they will participate in on Wednesday nights this fall.  A young married couple lead the group who are passionate about coming alongside us in this journey.  We are so blessed for God to send so many.

For  being home a day short of two weeks we are all doing incredibly well.  Beyond what we could have envisioned.  Lest we paint too rosy a picture, it is not all easy.  We have tough times and some defiance from one.  She is lazy, complains about most everything and is also adept at pulling the others into her misery.   We pray for wisdom to diffuse those situations and that God will protect and guard the hearts of the other three.  The fun afternoon yesterday was such a blessing because they saw that other families work together and live much as we do and it was a time of diffusing the intensity of their reaction to church.  They really enjoy time with this family and their children are rising up in an incredible way to minister to our children and come alongside them.  We were amazed at the perception of their youngest son and his passion for seeing our children come to know Jesus.  This family is also drawing us into fellowship and support with other adoptive families who share their stories and battles on this front line of warfare.  God knew we needed Christian friends and cannot do this alone and He is meeting every need.

We are so grateful for each of you and hope that we will one day be in the downhill stretch of this process and can pass it forward to other families that follow the call to open their homes, hearts and lives to those who have no one to call Mom and Dad.  The road is not an easy one and will likely get rougher as the newness of home wears off and the reality of their former lives becomes more of an issue for them.  But, we are in…for the long haul and on a mission to see each of them totally sold out to Jesus and living every minute of every day in relationship with Him.  That will be the day of Freedom for them and we cannot wait to celebrate that independence day!!

 

 

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10 Days Home

Music to my ears…happy laughter over a later-than-it-should-be pizza dinner after a shorter-than-we-like, because-it-is-getting-dark bike ride, and all the tomatoes planted in the garden today!  YAY!!  Everyone in a great mood and having fun.  Life is good.  🙂

We’ve been home 10 days and while every moment is not smiles and delight, they are all doing incredibly well.  It is amazing.  Knowing how hard we all pushed the last two weeks before we got home with the sightseeing and appointments in Kyiv and then Washington DC along with all the changes, including 7 hours time difference, we have been allowing them to sleep until they wake up and they are all sleeping nearly 12 hours each night.  That has things delayed each day so Mom and Dad’s goal starting tomorrow is to get it all shifted back to an earlier bedtime.

Having read a stack of books on older child adoption we are amazed at how well they are doing in many areas, one of which is welcoming affection from us and reciprocating.  They all enjoy hugs and the little guy in particular is extremely affectionate.  He makes my day with his sweet smile, genuine “I Love You” (in English!!) and tight hug every morning and night.  I got four separate hugs last night before bed.  They all welcome a touch or light rub on the back anytime.  They are also very grateful and appreciative.  There were a few days last week when “thank you” seemed to be headed for extinction but this week they are all very quick to say thank you, make eye contact and smile.

We purchased a refurbished computer for them before we left for Ukraine and got it set up and our Rosetta Stone English software installed yesterday so they started that today and all reported good scores for their first day.  We will tailor our schedule to allow each of them time to do alot of that each day.  Tonight at dinner there was increased interest in learning a new English phrase.  They made it fun and we all enjoyed a good laugh.  This will be great for them to do each day.  Trying to keep them all entertained every waking hour had Mom and Dad nearing exhaustion.  We had a request from one to do another lesson after dinner but it was so late that was relegated to tomorrow morning.

Our plans are always subject to change without notice, but Lord willing, tomorrow the boys will go with Dad to the farm an hour and a half away for a fun day of play and meeting some neighbors.  The girls and I plan to go shopping for church clothes and other necessities so that should be a fun day after alot of work this week.

So…10 days home and all is well.  Everyone went to bed happy…that is my measure of a great day!  Thanks for continuing to journey with us and we cherish your prayers as we work through the bumps of becoming a family and finding our new normal.  To so many who have sent encouraging emails, given us a hug, told us they are praying for us, brought food, called, listened on the tough days and offered priceless suggestions for taking care of ourselves…we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We love you all!!

 

 

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Days 6 and 7 – One Week Home

Well…we’ve promised to be honest so here goes.

Monday was a near meltdown for both girls.  Nothing we were not prepared for from every book, blog and parent who has had time to share their story of adoption of older children.  It is to be expected.  But, honestly, it is still hard, we knew it would be.  To spend 14 weeks and nearly countless dollars, do all possible to be sure this is what each of them wants, and have them meltdown in a week and want to go back is a bit disconcerting regardless of how prepared you are!!  But, we all stayed cool, including them.  They awoke this morning (Tuesday) happy and calm and are off to the farm for the day with Dad while I do some necessary paperwork to get them on our health insurance policy, laundry, find the floor of our bedroom and the like.

Church is really hard for them.  We experienced this in Kiev and again on Sunday.  That seems to be the thing that is the greatest contrast, it is also the most immersion in English they have gotten this week, they really struggle over church.  We attend an Independent Christian church that uses mostly contemporary music.  The service is structured but undoubtedly very different than the liturgical, formal, headcoverings for women, no chairs but standing, service of the Russian Orthodox church they have attended a couple of times each year.  From what we can deduct their loyalty to this religion comes from the love of a lady who came to the orphanage and shared Bible stories with them.  They love this lady and she loves them.  It is proof of the power of human relationships.  Of all the things that are different (language, food, clothes, a family) church seems to unnerve them most.  Or at least it is the straw that breaks the camels back.

On Monday I did a little shopping with two of them and Barney spent most of the day on Google translator trying to help them process this huge transition they are experiencing.  A concern we saw in Ukraine was the constant expectation of the entire orphanage of our English speaking one to translate.  Someone was yelling his name constantly.  It was overdone there but at home it is unfair to him and putting him in tough positions.  We are going to Google translator for anything emotionally charged.  Facts like pass the communion trays in church and don’t take one and don’t ride your bike into people’s yards are fine but upset kids talking about their stresses are not.  He is here as our son, not as a translator and we made this point to him privately and then enforced it.  We will be extra vigilant to see that he is protected.

We have been amazed from every blog we read that while in Ukraine most of these older children, not all, but most, are so anxious and willing to be adopted, and then struggle with the reality of it when they arrive home.  We talked to our kids at length over the 10 weeks we were there and they knew what the rules and expectations would be, and they do not deny that, but living it is much harder, and I suspect, more humbling, than they could envision 6000 miles from reality.

We understand the humility, we lived it for 14 weeks in Ukraine with the language barrier and food and cultural differences and we were in our very Americanized apartment doing life the way we do it.  They are in a new home with everything new and all things familiar gone.  We read in one book that an adoptive child described it as if the door to their past has not only closed but when they look back it has disappeared.  It is a perilous balance as parents to make the call as to how much to allow them to keep contact with their former life.  We have been warned by many who have walked this path, some more than once, in the past two years that there is no moderation in this, they will be a hull living in your house while their heart and soul are in Ukraine and they will spend 24 hours a day on the internet maintaining these connections and never establish any new relationships or language.  It really gets ugly when you allow it and then have to stop it.

They really are doing remarkably well.  They do not get angry or nasty.  There were some tears but they were good release and healthy.  It does not make us angry, we stay calm and feel so very sad for them.  We thought numerous times in Ukraine that the girls were going to bail out.  We were surprised when they didn’t.  We never pressured them to come, each time they questioned we offered the option to stay.  We took no hostages, they willingly decided on their own to come.  Now they have to own and live with the decision they made.  Not easy.  But no one ever said this would be easy, not for them or for us.  The first week when we filed our petition for court I asked their dear teacher that we all loved how she thought this would go.  “Rocky at first, likely very rocky, but then it will be good and they will do well.”  I think she knew them well and what this would involve.  I find reassurance in her belief that it will even out and be good with time.

After dinner we went for our daily bike ride and early on the younger girl braked with her front brake only and threw herself over the handlebars.  She and I returned home and got her lacerated chin bandaged and she did not want stitches but to rejoin the others and finish the ride so we did.  When we returned home it was still concerning so after talking with her and finding her open at that time to medical care I took she and Alex, to translate and offer support, to the Emergency room.  The wait was long and at first the doctor was pleased with the butterfly bandaging we had done but I encouraged him to remove it and look at it.  He decided to do 4 stitches and she was so brave.  It was really a sweet time with the two of them.  Bonding comes strongest in crisis so we pray this was a healing time on more fronts than just the physical.  She was laughing and smiling, making frequent eye contact with me, enjoying the special time just for her and the 1:30 a.m. McDonald’s fries and smoothies I got for them as a treat on the way home. 🙂  God uses all things for good…certainly not what we would have chosen within a week of arriving home but He will use it for good.

Mom and Dad’s biggest struggle right now is fatigue and keeping them all productively busy each day.  It will be a great day when they have more to do and can fill time on their own.  It will be good for them as well as they will feel more independent and in control.  We have books, legos and K’nex, etc. for them but there is still a sense of needing to fill every minute that is very exhausting for all of us.  We understand it is a natural part of the process of assimilating them into the family.

So, if you are journeying with us in prayer we are praying for the peace that passes understanding, for each of them and for us, and for rest and wisdom to use each day the most wisely to best meet their needs as well as the accomplishing the work we have to do.  Hopefully we’ll soon get the garden planted and be ready to move onto finishing their bedrooms and getting things in place and feeling more like home.   Then back to work on the rental properties that lack finishing and renting.

God has blessed us with work to do, the health to do it and now these very able and willing children who enjoy joining in the work and seeing the goal accomplished.  Barney was amazed last week when they were mowing the grass at the farm and the younger girl was motioning to him that they needed to rake up the grass.  If you’ve never been to Ukraine, it is a rare place that has any grass.  There was one place that we walked by each day that had landscaping and mowed and raked grass.  She must have learned it from our days walking to and from the bus by this property.  The next time they went he loaded rakes on the truck and the two girls took them from the truck and set in to rake the grass with no instruction.  They really are incredible kids and we pray for wisdom to train them in the way they should go.

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At Home ~ Days 4 and 5

What a first weekend at home!  Saturday was the deadline for everyone to have clothes and shoes for church.  We had secured the boys clothes and shoes, the girls had clothes but we lacked both girls’ trips to the shoe store.  Shopping for things for the younger boy with the two boys together works great but it works better to shop for the other three with that child alone.  It is great one-on-one together time and they get to choose what they like without the influence of the others.  A win-win!

Saturday I awoke Nicole for her trip to the shoe store that morning.  She enjoyed finding flip flops and dress sandals for church and we had a good time together.  We returned home for three of them to accompany Barney our small farm.  They love this and had a great time there that afternoon.

The CHEK Home School Conference was this weekend and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis was the keynote speaker.  His topic for the 1:00 session was Answers to the Most Commonly Asked Questions from Genesis.  Alex had asked us questions about Creation vs. Evolution for many weeks and with his strong English he was ready for this so he and I attended this session.  He attended an additional one on the Revolutionary War with the two sons of a dear friend while she and I shopped the vendor area.  Mr. Ham’s talk was excellent, Alex enjoyed and followed it well and is reading what we purchased at the conference.

Pavlina and I went for her shoe shopping trip that afternoon and she selected sandals for church as well.

That evening we were invited to dinner at our friends, who adopted 4 children from Ukraine 10 years ago.  God used them to plant this seed in our hearts.  It was a wonderful evening with our kids getting acquainted and enjoying riding horses, playing soccer and cornhole.

~ Anya leads Pavlina while Alex and Vanya Ride in the Background ~

~ Soccer ~

~ Nicole Enjoyed the Hammock ~

The evening culminated at their neighbor’s with a dessert potluck and fireworks.  Great fun!!

~ Watching an Awesome Fireworks Show with 3-D Glasses ~

Beautiful Celebration of America's Freedom

Saturday was a full, wonderful day and a late night getting to bed.  Sunday morning we woke them all for church and attended our ABF class, followed by worship where we sat with our friends from the night before.  Having spent 3 months+ in a nation that vividly remembers 20 short years ago when every church was an underground church in hiding it was incredible to worship freely in our church and so good to be back.  The kids did well and are very cooperative and compliant.

That afternoon one of the girls was struggling and shared her feelings of not feeling a part of the family and wanting to go back.  She was gentle and apologetic.  Not at all angry or volatile.  It is a perfectly normal response to all things new and the loss of all things familiar.  Our friends in Mississippi had shared with us that a counselor told them their daughter would want to go back.  It is not an affront to the parents nor any indication of their adjustment, but a very normal response in grieving the loss of everything familiar and living in a new culture with a new language.  No one could expect to feel a part of a family in this short time.  We were thrilled that our daughter felt free to share her feelings openly with us.  That said much about trust and her confidence that we would be respectful of her.

We returned to church last night for a special worship service.  It was a night of worship, mostly music.   God worked it out that we followed our friends into the parking lot.  🙂  We sat with them again and following the service she suggested that we go to the prayer room for prayer for our family during this time of transition.  They asked for someone to pray with this group of people and a man volunteered.  We entered a small room and told him our story and he told us that he was from a very difficult home, was stealing for food, etc. and was placed in a very bad foster home at age 6.  He was later moved to a Christian foster home where he came to know Jesus.  We stand in awe at how God orchestrates every minute of this journey.  That was a powerful reminder that He is still walking each step just as He did in Ukraine and placing people who have a passion for this journey along our path.  The season of being freed from bondage as orphans is past…the freeing into salvation in Christ and becoming a family is just beginning.

We continue to cherish your prayers as we move into our first full week.  Lots of things are on our list needing doing…far more than we can do.  We pray for wisdom to know what needs doing most and for the courage and strength to do the next thing.  Our greatest desire is to love each of these children unconditionally and with all of our hearts and that they will see Jesus in us.

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